This week we have been reflecting on Jesus’ command that we are to pray for and love our enemies (Matt. 5:44-45). Jesus’ words are as disruptive now as they were two thousand years ago, challenging the status quo way the world operates. A prayer for one’s enemies is disruptive. Loving action is really disruptive. And yet this is the Jesus Way. This is the ethic of the kingdom that Jesus inaugurated on earth; the way we as his followers are called to walk in and live out.
I recently finished reading NT Wright’s book The Day The Revolution Began. Toward the end of the book, Wright highlights two different shootings – Charleston in 2015 and the Amish school in 2006 – as striking examples of how forgiveness was extended by communities who had embraced the Jesus Way. His reflection is worth noting:
“These incidents, widely reported, strike secular journalists and their readers as strange to the point of being almost incredible. Do these people really mean it? It is clear that they do. The forgiveness was unforced. It wasn’t said through clenched teeth, in outward conformity to a moral standard, while the heart remained bitter. Forgiveness was already a way of life in these communities. They were merely exemplifying and extending, in horrific circumstances, the character they had already learned and practiced.”
In the midst of tragedy and evil, these communities were able to love their enemies because they had already been practicing the Jesus Way.
As I reflect on this I have a few takeaways:
- A true love for one’s enemies must flow from a heart that has been changed by the love of God. If our hearts haven’t truly experienced the amazing love of God – and if we’re not actively abiding in His love – we will lack the capacity to truly forgive and love those who oppose us. We learn to love and forgive at the feet of a Savior who loved us while we were his enemies (Rom. 5:10).
- In both of these tragedies, forgiveness was extended from a community. The significance of being actively involved in a community – doing life together – cannot be underestimated when it comes to living in the Jesus Way. We need each other. We need the fellowship of believers to encourage, admonish and remind us to live in the ways of the kingdom. If we are isolated we will lack the strength and support that comes from the body of Christ.
- Loving your enemies is something you must practice. We can practice loving our enemies by beginning to pray for those who oppose us, who make life difficult, who wish to harm us. We can take steps to reach out in love when the opportunity presents itself. When something becomes a way of life – as it had in Charleston and the Amish community – it is then possible to live into that in even the most horrific of circumstances.
Where is God moving you to take action in order to love your enemies? How can we engage in disruptive prayer? May He grant us the grace and strength to live into the Jesus Way.
We hope you’ve have had a great week of reflecting, praying and taking steps to love your enemies.